Pieoneers DiscoversPieoneers Discovers

by marsoneme

Move aside shibori, because there’s a new pillow darling on the home front.

Mud cloth has long been used in home décor, particularly upholstery, due to the fact that it’s incredibly sturdy, but in the last year or so, it has taken hold of one home accessory in particular: the throw pillow. One flip through a shelter magazine, or even a scroll through our very own house tours, and it’s clear to see that globally inspired and sourced textiles are undoubtedly having a moment. But mud cloth in particular? Oh, it’s the most popular girl in design school.

What exactly is mud cloth? A few facts:

  • A handmade Malian textile crafted from strips of hand-spun cotton fabric. It gets its graphic pattern from being dyed and covered numerous times by skilled artisans with mud that has been fermented for up to a year.
  • Though now widely made entirely by men, mud cloth was traditionally hand-spun by men and dyed by women as far back as the 12th century.
  • Before any mud is applied, the hand-spun cotton textile is soaked in a dye bath made from leaves of the n’gallama tree, turning it yellow. A chemical reaction occurs when the cloths are sun-dried, leaving the dark color on the dyed cloth after the mud is removed. Once the woven fabric reaches its deep brown color, motifs (which each represent something different) are painted on with a bleach or soap to render the designs white.
  • It derives its English name from the Bambaran word bògòlanfini, which is a composite of bogo, meaning “earth” or “mud”, lan, meaning “with” and fini, meaning “cloth.”
  • Because of the intricate and tedious process, yards of the imported fabric can be pretty costly, making any pillows or other home accessories made from the cloth quite pricey.
  • Most often, you’ll find pillows, throws and tapestries in black with white designs, or white with black designs, though other colors do exist.

Check out the gorgeous pillows in action in these rooms (and keep scrolling for some shopping sources to score your own!):

They add some stark contrast to modern chairs at St. Frank.

City Farmhouse tried her hand at a DIY version, which involved white pillows, a sharpie and a paint swatch.

Pair the traditional cloth with a glamorous fuzzy pillow and some velvets like Design Manifesto for a gorgeous juxtaposition.

Designer Becki Owens used Euro-sham-sized mud cloth pillows in the bedroom with crisp white sheets and a pop of pink.

This living room was transformed by Amber Interiors into a global oasis.

Spotted on the Urban Outfitters blog in pillow and throw form. Mud cloth knows no bounds!

A vintage chair is punched up with a mud cloth lumbar pillow, via Elements of Style.

This photo and the next from Sarah Sherman Samuel showcases a serene black and white palette where the mud cloth pillow shines.

Let’s Go Shopping!

We’ve rounded up a baker’s dozen of some of our favorite mud cloth pillows:

If you want to try your hand at sewing your own pillows, pick up some fabric from these fair trade retailers:

You can also check with the Fair Trade Federation for more partners.

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